If social media has taught us anything (besides human beings can exhibit the most horrible behaviors on it while hiding in anonymity) its that it is social. It's brought the world closer together, whether you have Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, a dating app, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.

But the least obscure social platform is, by far, TikTok. There is no arguing this. In fact, TikTok has by this point been downloaded onto smartphones like yours over 200 million times just this year alone.

Credit: SensorTower / nomercynomalice.com
Credit: SensorTower / nomercynomalice.com
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This data was available at the end of April. TikTok content is now accessed by one-eighth of the global population.

TikTok and its parent company Bytedance have revolutionized smartphone socialization. The algorithms in place on the Tok open your eyes to creative minds that otherwise wouldn't get traction on a Meta product (Facebook or Instagram) simply because Bytedance found out that none of the existing social apps were focused exclusively on video, the most engaging form of communication the world has ever seen.

Credit: Benny Edwin via Google Play
Credit: Benny Edwin via Google Play
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To be fair, it has been tried before. RIP, Vine

Care About Privacy? TikTok Doesn't

In 2020, under pressure from US lawmakers who were rightly concerned that Bytedance was a Chinese company that made TikTok user data available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) many companies made offers to buy their United States operations. Microsoft looked like the winning bidder, but the deal fell through after Bytedance refused to share their US algorithms with a US company.

The argument for deleting TikTok is compelling. Everything from your passwords, interests, comments, profile, IP address, and personal information and other data on your smartphone is readily available to the CCP.

Note from author: I'm not active in politics nor do I identify with any political party. It's best for my sanity.

Why This Matters To Montanans

A Montanan values their privacy more than a Californian or a Hoosier. The right to privacy is specifically enumerated in our state's constitution, Article II Section 10 states:

The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.

Montana is one of only 11 states which address the right to privacy at all, and the framers of this passage had a specific goal; don't invade our privacy unless the fate of the country is at stake. There's a reason why the Treasure State has one of the highest populations of veterans and retired seniors; they want to be left the hell alone. Private information like what sites you visit, what videos you've watched, and your online footprint aren't just shared with advertisers, they're shared with potentially dangerous players on the world stage.

And that data should be yours and yours alone.

How Dangerous Is TikTok?

Privacy concerns are nothing new in the world of social media. Facebook built their entire current business model on serving up as many ads as possible (when you post something about diapers for your newborn, watch how many Pampers, Huggies and baby-related items show up in your news feed), and revisiting the Cambridge Analytica debacle proves that they are willing to throw your privacy right into the garbage disposal in order to keep those advertisers spending money on the platform.

TikTok uses an unsecure connection to deliver video to your smartphone, known as Web 1, or HTTP. The modern standard for web connections is a secure connection, HTTPS. An unsecure connection leaves your device vulnerable to cybercriminals that can install malware, tweak your feed or mislead users, teenagers in particular.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
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No other social media platform available in the US uses an unsecure connection.

Your private data, including what you do on your smartphone besides hook up to TikTok's morphine drip, isn't being shared with just advertisers on TikTok; it is being shared with everyone. And everyone who has used TikTok including your family and your Montana neighbors is vulnerable.

In Summary

I lasted 4 days on TikTok earlier this year before deleting my profile and uninstalling it. Being exposed to content that chaotically shifted from informative to perverted to fun to ethically iffy to downright violent wasn't my cup of tea. I'm not writing this because I had a bad experience on the platform.

When the FCC is urging Apple and Google to ban the app from the App Store and Google Play, it's for a good reason. Your private data, along with the data of the over one billion other users who have installed and used TikTok, can be weaponized against you even if the content is seemingly harmless.

You can continue to use TikTok if you wish. I'm not here to tell any Montanan what to do. All I'm saying is that putting a finger on something the size, scale and massive impact of TikTok can move the world just as easily as drag & drop on the desktop. And that finger is attached to somebody; potentially motivated to sow divisiveness and discontent not just in Montana but in the United States.

Use at your own risk